This is what troops do when they're wintered over in Antarctica - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica

Winter sucks everywhere. Sure, the bugs have finally frozen over and you can finally break out that coat you like, but it’s cold, you’re always late because your car won’t defrost in time, and no one seems to remember to tap their brakes when stopping at intersections.

But, as any optimist might tell you, things can always get worse! While it sucks for us up here in the middle of December, it’s actually the nicest time to be in Antarctica — nice by Antarctic standards anyway.

It doesn’t last, though, as the winters there begin in mid-February and don’t let up until mid-November. And don’t forget, we have brothers and sisters in the U.S. Armed Forces down there embracing the suck of the coldest temperatures on Earth.


This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica

McMurdo Station is by far the most populated location on the entire continent with a population of 250 in the winter.

(Photo by Sarah E. Marshall)

To ensure that no hostilities occur on the frozen continent, the Antarctica Treaty lists it as “the common heritage of mankind.” As such, only scientific expeditions are allowed down there. Since airmen, sailors, and coast guardsmen have the capabilities to assist in this respect, they routinely travel to scientific research facilities to help out. Their mission is, simply, keep the scientists alive and let them focus on doing their jobs.

During the winter, which, as we’d mentioned, lasts for ten months, most scientists head to more hospitable climates. Most. Not all. It’s up to the troops to help keep those who remain safe and well. Thankfully, there are only three spots on the entire barren continent that they need to keep tabs on: McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

The ports and airstrips at Palmer Station remain active year round. In case of any emergencies, the Air Force and Navy can quickly send supplies into Palmer to have it distributed out further. At McMurdo Station, the winters are a little more intense, so the ports and airstrip are strictly for emergency use — but they manage.

Then there’re the troops with the scientists at the South Pole Station. They’re almost entirely frozen in. Thankfully, it doesn’t snow that much at the South Pole, but the wind combined with near-permanent darkness make it feel close to -100 Fahrenheit. The only real thing to do then is to bunker inside at the one bar located at the South Pole and wait for ten months inside.

To see what the winters actually look like in Antarctica, check out the video below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lawmakers try to expand list of diseases eligible for Agent Orange benefits

Proposed amendments to the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act would add three diseases to the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ list of illnesses presumed to be linked to Agent Orange — measures that, if approved, would provide health care and disability benefits to roughly 22,000 affected veterans.

The House and Senate amendments, proposed by Rep. Josh Harder, D-California, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, would add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism to the VA’s list of 14 conditions considered related to herbicide exposure during the Vietnam War.


In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine deemed the three named diseases to be associated with exposure to defoliants used during the war.

But the proposals do not include hypertension, a condition that the Academies also linked to Agent Orange in 2018. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is common among the elderly and, if included, could add more than 2 million veterans to VA disability rolls in the next 10 years, at an estimated cost of $11.2 billion to $15.2 billion, according to department estimates.

Thirty veteran and military groups have backed the proposals and asked congressional leaders to do the same.

On Tuesday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America and 27 other groups wrote House and Senate leaders urging them to get behind the provisions.

“We call on you to lead and pass House Amendment 264 into law and end the waiting for many of our nation’s ill veterans so they can receive disability benefits,” stated letters sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“There is more work to be done to care for those who are ill from toxic exposures, including adopting hypertension as a presumptive disease … but with your leadership, tens of thousands of Vietnam War veterans will receive their benefits and justice,” they wrote.

A decision on whether to add the three conditions has been delayed since 2017, when then-VA Secretary David Shulkin expressed support for including them but never formally announced his decision.

According to internal VA documents, Shulkin had been on the verge of including the three conditions when the Office of Management and Budget and other White House officials objected, citing what they called “limited scientific evidence” and cost.

Meanwhile, thousands of veterans have waited.

“Vietnam vets have been waiting for this for decades, and it’s a national shame that it’s not fixed yet,” Harder told Military.com. “We have a real chance here to make this right after all this time, and we should seize the opportunity.”

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told lawmakers late last year he wants the results of two studies — the Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational Study, or VE-HEROES, and the Vietnam Era Mortality Study — to be reviewed for publication before announcing a decision on whether to broaden the presumptives list.

But lawmakers and advocacy groups have balked at the delay.

“This is something we are still fighting after how many decades from the Vietnam War?” asked Corey Titus, director of veterans benefits and Guard/reserve affairs at MOAA. “We should be making sure there aren’t any service members with illnesses who aren’t getting the care and benefits they earned.”

In February, Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, penned a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to “take corrective action” and add all four diseases to the list, including hypertension.

“Your administration has the ability to add these conditions to the presumptive list and provide lifesaving benefits to more than 190,000 veterans. Without your action, tens of thousands of sick and aging veterans will continue to go without VA resources and health care in their time of need,” he wrote.

The letter was signed by 77 members, all Democrats.

While hypertension is not included in the proposed amendment, the coalition of veterans and military organizations pledged to continue working on adopting it as a “presumptive disease as linked by the National Academies.”

“This needs to be covered as well. This is not something that we will forget — hypertension,” Titus said.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have both passed their versions of the fiscal 2021 defense bill and forwarded them to their respective chambers for consideration. Currently, committees are weighing the rules for amending and deliberating the bills before they move ahead for debate.

Both Harder and Tester’s proposals must make it through that process before coming up for a vote.

A legislative source said Tester’s amendment has been identified for a vote.

“With a bipartisan team of lawmakers and the support of the entire veterans community, we have a strong chance to finally get this done,” Harder said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the responses to Trump’s DC military parade

President Donald Trump has directed the Pentagon to prepare a grand military parade in Washington, DC, and the initial response has been largely negative.


Democratic lawmakers quickly came out against it Feb. 6, with Rep. Jackie Speier of California telling CNN, “we have a Napoleon in the making here” and saying, “everyone should be offended” by the idea.

“Oh my god… he wants to be Kim Jong Un,” the MSNBC personality Joy Reid remarked on Twitter in response to the news.

The Pentagon is said to be exploring dates for such a parade. But if it does happen, Trump wouldn’t be the first U.S. president, or even the first modern one, to hold a military parade in Washington, DC.

There’s a long history of military parades in the U.S., but its recent history is anchored in the Cold War when the U.S. showed off nuclear missiles long before North Korea’s Kim dynasty even had the capability.

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica
Kim Jong Un waves at North Korean soldiers. (Image KCNA)

Recent history of U.S. military parades — and their nukes

In 1953 and 1957, Dwight Eisenhower’s inaugurations included nuclear-capable missiles rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.

In 1961, John F. Kennedy’s inaugural parade included four types of nuclear missiles, the nuclear historian Stephen Schwartz pointed out on Twitter.

Both Kennedy and Eisenhower presided over some of the tensest days of the Cold War-era nuclear-arms race with the Soviet Union.

In Kennedy’s case, a frightened U.S. had just watched the Soviets’ Sputnik satellite, mankind’s first, passing through the skies. American schoolchildren were drilled on how to hide under desks in the event of a nuclear attack. After all, if the Soviets could put a satellite in space and fly it around the world, they could also put up the bomb.

On the other end of the Cold War, when the U.S. emerged victorious from the Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush brought back the military for another parade.

The U.S. victory had been decisive, with Saddam Hussein’s army, the world’s third-largest at the time, decimated by superior U.S. military power. Though 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. casualties were forecast in the conflict, where chemical weapons had killed scores of civilians, fewer than 300 U.S. troops died.

Also Read: North Korea wants to scare the US with a huge military parade

The U.S. brought its troops home for a parade in June 1991, when Bush’s approval rating was soaring.

Later that year, the Kremlin lowered the Communist hammer-and-sickle flag for the last time. The Soviet Union imploded, and the Cold War ended.

The Cold War is back on, parades and all

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has withdrawn troops from Europe and taken measures to reduce its military footprint and nuclear stockpiles. The Obama administration increasingly treated Russia like a partner and less like a competitor.

But late in Obama’s presidency, the tide started to turn. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 to a muted U.S. and NATO response.

Russia intervened in Syria’s civil war the next year and immediately started bombing U.S.-backed forces. Additionally, Russia stands accused of violating arms-control agreements with the U.S. and placing nuclear weapons in Europe, much as it did in the Cold War.

China, over the same period, embarked on a massive, ambitious campaign to rebuild its military and dominate the South China Sea, a shipping lane where annual commerce worth trillions of dollars passes through, and where China has ignored international law in building artificial islands in contested territory.

The return to Cold War footing for Eastern powers isn’t Trump’s doing and didn’t happen on his watch, but the U.S.’s embrace of a new Cold War definitely is.

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica
China and North Korea used to be friends. Now, China won’t even take their calls.

Trump takes aim at China and Russia, looking to fight fire with fire

The Trump administration recently released a series of documents outlining the U.S.’s foreign policy and military bearings. In the National Defense Strategy, the National Security Strategy, and the Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration has consistently named its biggest challenges as taming the rises of Russia and China.

Trump’s new nuclear posture looks past arms control and toward an arms race.

Russia regularly holds military parades. So does North Korea. So do many U.S. allies, including many democracies.

Trump’s military parade may be costly, and it may tax an already stretched military, but in context, it marks a return to Cold War-era great-power competition.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Top Gun’ bows to China by changing Maverick’s jacket

The sequel to “Top Gun,” a film that boosted US Navy aviation recruitment by 500%, appears to have bowed to China’s powerful Communist party by changing the jacket of its titular character, Maverick, played by Tom Cruise.

In the trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick,” which came out on July 18, 2019, Tom Cruise’s character can be seen wearing his signature leather jacket, but something isn’t the same anymore.

An eagle-eyed Twitter user pointed out that Maverick, whose entire character and name suggest a fierce independence, now wears a jacket that appears changed to appease China, the US’s current chief military adversary.


Maverick’s old jacket had a large patch that read “Far East Cruise 63-4, USS Galveston,” commemorating a real-life US battleship’s tour of Japan, Taiwan, and the Western Pacific. Fittingly, the patch displayed the US, UN, Japanese, and Taiwanese flags.

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica

Maverick is not such a maverick that he’d stand up to China in the new Top Gun.

(Paramount Pictures)

In the new movie, the patch now has the US and UN flags, but not the Japanese or Taiwanese flags, and makes no mention of the Galveston.

Now Maverick’s patch has flags that look conspicuously like the Japanese and Taiwanese flags, but Business Insider could not identify them.

Business Insider reached out to Paramount Pictures for comment on the alteration and will update this story with any comments.

China frequently boycotts and retaliates against any organization that recognizes Taiwan or refers to it as a country. China threatened multiple airlines not to refer to Taiwan as a country, and they all buckled under the pressure. The US responded, calling it “Orwellian nonsense.”

Top Gun: Maverick – Official Trailer (2020) – Paramount Pictures

www.youtube.com

Japan occupied China during World War II and the countries still have bad blood from the brutal fighting seven decades ago. China frequently funds propaganda films featuring Chinese protagonists killing Japanese occupiers.

While the US still formally maintains that Taiwan is a breakaway province of China, a recent defense paper referred to Taiwan as a country, prompting an angry response from Beijing.

The new film, a big-budget major-studio effort on a hot property, may have sought to maximize revenues by making the movie palatable to Chinese censors and audiences.

China heavily censors foreign films and television and is increasingly catered to by filmmakers as it’s set to displace the US as the top consumer of film.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A single US Merchant Marine ship rescued 14,000 in the Korean War

The SS Meredith Victory might be the luckiest and most important ship of the entire Korean War. The Merchant Marine vessel carried men and materiel that saved US troops in the Pusan Perimeter, protected the supplies around Inchon harbor, and pulled off the “Christmas Miracle” – the largest single ship rescue evacuation of refugees in history.


Merchant Mariners might be history’s biggest unsung heroes. The Korean War in 1950 was not going well for the United Nations forces. American troops were relegated to a small corner of the Korean Peninsula, barely holding off the Communist onslaught as North Korea fought to push them into the sea and out of the war. In what came to be known as the Pusan Perimeter, American and South Korean forces held the line until the Americans could relieve them.

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica

In true joint force action, the Army and Marines, supported by the Navy and Air Force, planned a landing at Inchon, behind the North Korean lines. The enemy around Pusan practically dissipated as the Army broke out of the Pusan Perimeter while Marines were landing at Inchon. Within two weeks, the UN forces had partially retaken Seoul and cut off the enemy’s supply and communications ability.

The unsung heroes of the Merchant Marine were part of the Inchon Landing force as well. If it weren’t for them, the whole thing might have fallen to the bottom of the ocean. The day before the landings at Inchon, a massive typhoon hit the coast of the Korean Peninsula, just off of which lay the United Nations invasion fleet. Hurricane-force winds slammed the boats supporting the invasion. Among them was the SS Meredith Victory, a merchant marine ship carrying men and supplies for the landing. Were it not for the ship’s crew’s skill at saving the ship, the entire invasion might never have happened.

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica

The UN fleet off the coast of Inchon, Korea.

But that’s not the last time history called the Meredith Victory. By the end of 1950, the Chinese had intervened in the war and were pushing UN forces back to the south. Along with those retreating troops came thousands of North Korean refugees fleeing the repressive Communist regime. By the time the Meredith Victory arrived in Hungnam Harbor, the docks were packed with refugees and soldiers fleeing the Chinese.

“The Koreans on the dock, to me, that’s what we were there for, that was our job. The problem was how we [were] going to get them aboard,” remembered Burley Smith, a Merchant Mariner, the third mate aboard the Meredith Victory. “There were too many people and not enough time to get them all loaded. It looked like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.”

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica

North Korean refugees crowd the harbor at Hungnam, December 1950.

By this time, the Army had already left, and the Chinese were being held back by Naval gunfire. The crew of the Meredith Victory began loading passengers aboard this ship meant to house 59 people. The crew worked around the clock, loading the masses of people on to her decks. They managed to get all 14,000 onto the ship and safely away from the harbor before the Army blew the port facilities.

The ship traversed the coast of Korea, on the lookout for mines, enemy submarines, and North Korean fighter planes. By the time the ship got to Geoje Island, every single refugee was alive – and five more were born along the way. It was a Christmas miracle.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The original stealth fighter absolutely destroyed in Desert Storm

When we talk about stealth fighters today, the Lockheed F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II usually spring to mind. There was one plane, though, that started it all, paving the way for all future stealth aircraft — and did so over a quarter-century ago. That plane was the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk.


The Nighthawk was actually a hard sell to legendary aeronautical and systems engineer Kelly Johnson, the man behind aviation hallmarks, like the P-38 Lightning (the plane Tom Lanphier flew to kill Isoroku Yamamoto), the SR-71 Blackbird, and the U-2 Dragon Lady. Lockheed’s website reports that Johnson famously told Ben Rich the plane would “never get off the ground.” But the F-117 wasn’t designed to look pretty or to have high performance. It was meant to be invisible.

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica
The F-117 Nighthawk, the world’s first attack aircraft to employ stealth technology, retired after 27 years of U.S. Air Force service. The aircraft made its first flight at the Tonopah Test Range, Nev., in June 1981, just 31 months after full-scale development was authorized. The Nighthawk program remained classified until November 1988, when a photo of the jet was first unveiled to the public. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-117 first flew in 1981 and became operational in 1983. The plane was flown only at night to keep prying eyes away — and many of the RD efforts were done in the Nevada desert. In 1989, the plane took some heat after its involvement in Operation Just Cause, where it dropped what were to be, essentially, 2000-pound stun grenades. It didn’t work.

But it was Desert Storm that made the F-117 a legend. On the opening night, F-117s, each with a radar cross-section the size of a marble, slipped into Baghdad and hit vital command and control targets. Saddam’s thugs had no idea that these planes were coming — they had left the city’s lights on.

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica
An F-117 Stealth Fighter takes off for a mission from the flightline. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

F-117A.com notes that even though only 36 F-117s were in the theater of operations, they hit 31 percent of the targets. There was no other plane the coalition dared to send over downtown Baghdad.

The F-117 serves for 17 years after Desert Storm, seeing action in Operation Allied Force and the Global War on Terror. It was retired in 2008, arguably too soon for this legend to fade away.

MIGHTY CULTURE

WWII POW gives back to Post-9/11 vets

In 1994, U.S. Army Air Corps WWII veteran and former POW Clarence Robert “Bud” Shepherd opened a small warehouse in Burlington, North Carolina, to assist 501 (c) (3) non-profit organizations, like schools, churches, and daycares.

Shepherd refocused his attention on Post-9/11 combat wounded veterans in 2012 by creating the Veteran Toolbox Program. He provided them with free toolboxes to assist with their transition into civilian life. Although Post-9/11 Purple Heart veterans are priority for the program, all veterans can apply.


“I always wanted to do something for veterans, and I came up with the toolbox program,” said Shepherd. “We talked to some tool companies, and they were interested in getting involved. We talked to Stanley and Black and Decker about what we wanted to do and they came back with one word – absolutely! APEX tools, Wooster paint brushes, and Johnson Johnson are also great supporters.”

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica

U.S. Army Air Corps Veteran Bud Shepherd served as a B-17 tail-gunner in WWII and held as a Prisoner of War.

The REAch Veteran Toolbox Program has shipped more than 8,000 toolboxes to veterans, which contains about 0 worth of tools.

“This is the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done in my lifetime,” said the 94-year-old.

Shepherd works six days a week, gets up at 5 a.m., and leaves work at 6 p.m. most days. But he’s no stranger to hard work.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943, when he was 18 years old. He served in the 8th Air Force in England as a tail-gunner on a B-17. Enemy forces shot down his plane six months before the end of WWII. Shepherd was captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp near Berth, Germany.

“Once we got settled down, things went along fairly smooth because there was 9,000 of us, all Air Force people,” Shepherd recalled. “About 7,500 Americans and a few Brits. We were liberated by the Russians and I made my way back home.”

WWII POW Bud Shepherd: Let’s Never Forget Our POWs and MIAs

www.youtube.com

“We hear from a lot of these guys and their families,” Shepherd said. “Last week we got an e-mail saying ‘You saved my husband’s life. He hasn’t been out of the house in three months but ever since he got his toolbox he’s been out in the garage or the backyard working on something.'”

REAch operates in Graham, North Carolina, but ships the toolboxes across the country.

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica

Tim Shepherd (left) son of Bud Shepherd (right) at the tool room getting 10 boxes ready to ship for the day.

“I go to the VA hospital in Durham, North Carolina, for yearly physicals, but my health is excellent,” he said. “These people down there that I deal with at the VA hospital, they are just good people… In my lifetime, I’ve been blessed, and I enjoy every minute of it.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

These 3 active duty officers served as National Security Advisor before McMaster

With the news that Army Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster has been chosen to serve as National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump, this marks the fourth time an active-duty military officer has filled this position.


Here is a look at the previous three.

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica
Air Force Lt. Gen Brent Scowcroft meeting with Vice President Nelson Rockefeller during his tenure as Deputy National Security Advisor. Scowcroft would later become the National Security Advisor – serving 28 days until retiring from the Air Force. He later served under George H. W. Bush. (White House photo)

1. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft

Brent Scowcroft was active-duty for less than a month while serving as National Security Advisor to President Gerald Ford, taking the job on Nov. 3, 1975, and retiring on Dec. 1, 1975. Still, he is technically the first active-duty military officer to serve in this position.

Scowcroft served for the remainder of the Ford administration, then was tapped to serve as National Security Advisor for a second stint under George H. W. Bush – holding that post for the entirety of that presidency. During his second run as NSA, Scowcroft’s tenure saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, Operation Desert Storm, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica
(Official U.S. Navy biography photo)

2. Navy Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter

Perhaps the most notorious active-duty officer to hold the position due to his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, Poindexter was National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan during the 1986 Freedom of Navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra that turned violent, Operation El Dorado Canyon, and the Reykjavik Summit in October, 1986.

Poindexter was initially convicted on five charges connected with Iran-Contra, but the convictions were tossed out on appeal. In 1987, he retired at the rank of Rear Admiral (Upper Half).

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica
Colin Powell briefing President Ronald Reagan in 1988. (Photo from Reagan Presidential Library)

3. Army Lt. Gen. Colin L. Powell

Probably the most notable active-duty officer to serve in the post, Colin Powell served as National Security Advisor from November 1987 to the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term. While he was in that position, the U.S. and Iran had a series of clashes culminating in Operation Praying Mantis and the downing of an Iranian Airbus by the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes (CG 49).

After his tenure as National Security Advisor, Powell went on to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – then was Secretary of State during George W. Bush’s first term as president.

As a note for the fashion-watchers, while all three predecessors wore suits, We Are The Mighty has learned from a source close to senior Trump staffers that incoming Nationals Security Advisor McMaster has been given the option to wear his uniform while holding the post.

A spokesperson for Scowcroft noted, “It is not against the law but it is not usually done.”

Neither Powell nor the White House Press Office responded to a WATM request for comment by post time.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Most of us think of highly-trained spies and espionage units as the best of the best, Cold War ninjas who would never dream of getting caught lest they be disavowed by Washington, Moscow, London, or wherever they come from.

If 1980s-era film and television has taught us anything, it’s that the Russian spy agencies are among the best of the best. If that was true, something is severely lacking lately, because one of their spy units keeps getting caught doing some high-profile greasy stuff.


Russia’s GRU unit 29155 was recently outed as the unit behind the alleged payment of bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But that’s not the only high-visibility mission that was uncovered in recent days. 29155 was also allegedly behind the effort to hack Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the assassination of former KGB spy Sergei Skripal in England, and an attempted coup in Montenegro.

The unit is part of the Russian military intelligence apparatus, responsible for intelligence gathering and operations outside of the Russian Federation. The GRU (as it’s known outside of Russia and the former Soviet Union) was not as widely known or regarded as the Soviet KGB or the KGB’s antecedents, the Russian SVR and FSB, but today it is the go-to agency for military-related operations.

Why? Because it deploys six times as many foriegn operatives as the FSB or SVR. The GRU is Russia’s largest foreign security service. But unlike the KGB, the GRU has been largely unchanged since its Soviet heyday.

The GRU is the unit that takes on the most important military operations, like say, partnering with the Taliban or killing off former Soviet spies. But Foreign Policy says their work has been pretty sloppy in the past few years.

In the case of bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence services were actually able to track bank transfers between the Taliban and GRU accounts overseas. As for the other plots, it didn’t even require intelligence services. Media outlets inside and outside of Russia have been able to track members of 29155 because they kept reusing aliases with questionable cover stories to travel throughout the world.

Using these bits of information, the movement of GRU assets was relatively easy to track for the media, who published their findings. It was so easy, the information was confirmed by multiple countries’ intelligence agencies. The members of 29155 were mapped and tracked all over Europe.

Two of the 29155’s agents, Alexander Petrov (really Alexander Mishkin) and Ruslan Boshirov (real name Anatoliy Chepiga), were caught red-handed by Scotland Yard on closed-circuit tv cameras in the 2018 assassination plot of Sergei Skripal.

In that plot, the use of a Soviet nerve agent, along with the GRU operatives, led investigators not only to 29155, but to Chepiga entire graduating class of the GRU academy. From there, they uncovered plots to poison an arms dealer, interfering in elections in Spain, and even a coup in NATO member Montenegro.

Western intelligence saw the effort as a “Rosettta Stone” in reading Russian intelligence movements abroad.

Whoops.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A camera can now grab facial expressions from miles away

Here’s the brief story of an obscenely large picture.

It’s the brainchild of a company called Jingkun Technology, or BigPixel, taken from atop the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai.

What it is not, contrary to chatter on social media this week, is some evil new Chinese satellite “quantum technology.”

It’s just a very, very big picture, and according to the company, more than 8 million people have explored it.

The company said the photo’s resolution is a mind-blowing 195 gigapixels.


Articles

The F-35 may soon carry one of the US’s most polarizing nuclear weapons

The Air Force designed the F-35A with nuclear capability in mind, and a new report indicates that the Joint Strike Fighter may carry nuclear weapons sooner than expected.


The Air Force originally planned to integrate nuclear weapons in the F-35 between 2020-2022, but Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus told Defensetech.org that “it would definitely be possible,” to hasten the deployment of B-61 nuclear gravity bombs on the F-35 should the need for it arise.

Also read: How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

As it stands, the B-61’s “military utility is practically nil,” wrote General James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2012. The B-61s “do not have assigned missions as part of any war plan and remain deployed today only for political reasons within the NATO alliance,” Cartwright continued.

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica
Lockheed Martin’s F-35A aircraft displays its weapons load-out at Edwards Air Force Base in California. | Lockheed Martin photo by Matt Short

Currently among fighter jets, only the F-15E and F-16C carry the B-61. Neither of these planes can penetrate contested enemy airspace, so they could only drop the gravity bomb on an area unprotected by air defenses.

The F-35, a polarizing defense project in its own right, could change that with its stealth capabilities. However, President-elect Trump has voiced concerns about the F-35 project while simultaneously stressing that the US needs to “expand its nuclear capability.”

Immediately this lead to talk of a new nuclear arms race, much to the horror of nuclear experts and non-proliferation advocates. The fact is that Russia and the US already have more nuclear weapons than necessary to meet their strategic needs.

Additionally, nuclear modernization is due to cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming decades, and around a trillion dollars in total.

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica
Image courtesy of Armscontrol.org

But not only do experts find nuclear expansion costly and unnecessary, they also find it dangerous.

The US has 180 B-61 nuclear bombs stationed in five bases throughout Europe. Russian intelligence services monitor deployments of fighter jets across Europe, and the fact that the F-15E and F-16C regularly deploy to these bases could lead to a catastrophic misinterpretation.

Kingston Reif, the director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider that the US “should be seeking to strengthen the dividing line between nuclear and conventional weapons, not blur that line.”

F-35s, with their excellent stealth attributes, taking off from European bases that may or may not house the B-61s (it would be extremely difficult for Russia to know) and flying near Russia’s borders could put Moscow on high alert. This could even potentially spook the Kremlin into launching an attack on the US.

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica
A frontal view of four B-61 nuclear free-fall bombs on a bomb cart at Barksdale Air Force Base. | Department of Defense photo by SSGT Phil Schmitten

Furthermore, the B-61s are low-yield bombs, meaning they don’t pack much of a punch. In the event of an actual nuclear conflict, “the likely hood is that we’re going to use the big bombs, and not the little bombs,”Laicie Heely of the nonpartisan Stimpson Center think tank points out.

So while the F-35 may provide a stealthy, sleek new delivery method for nuclear bombs, they may destabilize already fraught relations between the world’s two greatest nuclear powers — Russia and the US.

“There can be no winners in a nuclear war and that as long as each side has nuclear weapons, strategic stability will remain central to their bilateral relations,” Reif said of US-Russian relations.

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This is why a Dragon Lady crashed

The cause of a Sept. 20, 2016 crash near Sutter, California, that destroyed a TU-2S Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft and killed a pilot has been released.


The Air Force officially reported that the TU-2S was on a training mission. When the trainee — not identified in the Air Force release — finished a stall recovery drill, the plane went into what the release called an “unintentional secondary stall.”

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica
Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris

The release reported that both pilots ejected from the airplane before it inverted and descended below the minimum safe altitude. The instructor, Lt. Col. Ira S. Eadie, was killed when he was struck by the stricken plane’s right wing. The trainee received minor injuries.

The Air Force release noted that nobody was injured on the ground, but the $32 million trainer was completely destroyed in the crash.

“Beale’s Airmen have shown resilience in the months following the crash,” Col. Larry Broadwell, commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, said in a separate statement released by Beale Air Force Base.

“This tragedy impacted the Eadie family, Beale, and the local community. We will continue to provide support to those affected and always remember the sacrifice Lt. Col. Eadie made in the line of duty.”

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica
A U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane comes in for a landing. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt Aaron Oelrich)

“The results of the accident investigation were presented to us, affording our family some small degree of closure during this difficult situation,” the Eadie family said in the statement from Beale Air Force Base.

“We would like to thank the entire investigation team for their diligent efforts in helping make sense of this tragedy.  We greatly appreciate the love and support from all who have assisted over the past few months.  We would also like to thank you in advance for respecting our family’s privacy during this current period of grieving.”

An Air Force fact sheet noted that as of September 2015, five TU-2S trainers were on inventory. The first version of the U-2 flew in 1955, and the last U-2 was produced in 1989.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China likely has a new bomber, tipping South China Sea

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) appears to have a new bomber in its ranks, and it could boost China’s military strength in disputed waterways.

Satellite images of the PLANAF base at Guiping-Mengshu in Guangxi Province, China show what observers suspect are Xian H-6J bombers, new naval variants of the upgraded H-6Ks that have been in service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) since 2011, IHS Janes first reported Oct. 11, 2018.

The H-6Js are expected to replace the H-6G maritime striker bombers first fielded in the 1990s, The Diplomat reported Oct. 12, 2018.


The new bombers are believed to carry three times as many anti-ship missiles as their predecessor, with experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Missile Defense Project predicting that the new aircraft will be paired with the YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missile, which can cover roughly 400 km in about six minutes.

The Chinese PLAN has at times found itself in tense showdowns with the US military. When the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation near Chinese military outposts in the Spratly Islands in early October 2018, the Chinese navy dispatched the Type 052C Luyang II-class guided-missile destroyer Lanzhou to confront the American warship.

The PLANAF H-6Js would give China extra firepower in any potential conflict. The H-6Js are also thought to have a greater range of about 3,500 kilometers, allowing these aircraft to patrol almost all of the South China Sea with mid-air refueling.

The satellite photos, taken on Sept. 7, 2018, appeared on Twitter around the start of October 2018.

The PLANAF appears to have at least four H-6Js in its arsenal, but it will presumably want to establish a full regiment, The Diplomat explained.

Chinese bombers have been increasingly active above contested waterways, such as the East and South China Seas, in recent years, according to a 2018 Department of Defense report on China’s military power.

“The PLA has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the report said. In 2017, the PLA flew a dozen operational flights through the Sea of Japan, into the Western Pacific, around Taiwan, and over the East and South China Seas — all potential regional flash points.

In recent months, the US military has been putting pressure on China with regular B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bomber flights through the East and South China Seas, with the most recent occurring in October 2018.

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica

A B-52 Stratofortress.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo)

“One US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber, deployed to the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, conducted a routine training mission Oct. 10, 2018,” Pacific Air Forces told Business Insider on Oct. 12, 2018. “The bomber integrated with four Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-15Js in the vicinity of the East China Sea before returning to Guam.”

China has previously characterized these types of flights as “provocative,” criticizing the US for its repeated flybys in August and September 2018.

The recent flight, like the many others before it, was in support of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence operations, which are intended to send a deterrence message to any and all potential challengers.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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